Big beat in Bratislava: A development milestone in Slovak popular music

The period of “Dubcek era” had in 1968, despite its short duration, an important meaning in the political and cultural area. In the field of popular music folk and jazz were revived, censorship weakened and the music style “rock” fully started in line with world events. Following the example of English rock and American popular music there arose in the first half of the 1960s Slovak a beat group signalling that a new musical trend had begun.
One significant Slovak beat musician was Dezider Ursiny with the bands The Beatman (1964) and Soulman (1966). D. Ursiny also cooperated with J. Filip, L. Stankovsky and P. Danek. Another major band was called Prudy – Currents, with P. Hammel as the frontman. The members of this band were important personalities of the “early beat” in Bratislava: F. Fresno, F. Griglak, V. Kaššay, J. Lauko, F. Letnan, V. Mally, P. Saller and others. The most important turning point in the development of Prudy band was when M. Varga joined the band. He as a performer and composer together with other band members recorded an LP Zvonky, zvoňte – Bells, ring! (1968). After leaving Prudy M. Varga established another band Collegium musicum (1970). The band members were: D. Hajek, F. Freso, and R. Vacho, who was later replaced by F. Griglak. The band debuted with an SP and LP Collegium musicum and a double album Konvergencie – Convergences (1971), in which we can see a synthesis of classical and rock music in the adaptation of works of European classicists while still presenting singing and instrumental beat creation with significant elements of Slovak folklore. Another important personality and a pioneer in the beat style in Slovakia is F. Griglák who established the band Fermáta in 1972. The works of this interesting band followed the latest music trend of the 1970s – jazz-rock. In their compositions we can hear hints of Slavic or regional folk melodics, which is reflected in the programme names of LPs (Piesne z hôľ – Songs from the mountain pastures – 1976 and Dunajská legenda –The Danube legend – 1980). At the turn of the 1960s and 1970s bands such as Gattch with L. Beladic (currently with the bandmaster T. Reday), The Gentleman with L. Nosko, The Players with J. Barin, Istropolitana with T. Launer and other bands achieved a more remarkable level of success. Some of the groups were able to keep their own stylishness of original interpretation despite the strong influences of Anglo-American music and they were able to provide a specific synthesis of beat with domestic folk and artistic elements. Until today they have created incalculable studio recordings and concert performances. Several of them are active to these days.
In 1970 and generally the 1970s seemed to be a milestone in the development of popular music not only in Slovakia but also in the world. The generation of sophisticated “swingers” was replaced by the generation of more expressive “rockers”. The commercial success of rock bands grew into the cult of rock stars. This cult arose mainly due to artistic agencies and managers. There arose rock mainstream, which is by its success attacks older and as well as newly emerging minority genres. Bratislava became the centre of musical culture and attracted the attention of creators and listeners of popular music. Intensive cooperation with radio, television, the OPUS publishing house and performances at prestigious festivals become inevitable for advertising and life of the bands and singers. Particularly Bratislavská Lýra provides the winner of the first three prizes for the chance to become celebrities literally from one day to another (Modus: Úsmev – Smile / 1978 /, M. Gombitová: Vyznanie – Confession /1979/, Elan: Kaskadér – Stuntman /1980/). According to the “western idols” there are radio and television hit parades with different names (Vyberte si pesničku – Choose a song, Televízna hitparáda – Television hit parade, Našich deväť – Our nine, 5xP, Triangel etc.). In the Televízny klub mladých – Television Youth Club (TKM) viewers could listen to playback and often live performances by various bands and faces of new singers. Bratislavská Lýra was several times in a row won by the rival bands Modus with the bandleader J. Lehotsky and the ambitious group Elán with its leaders J. Raz and V. Patejdl. The band Taktici composed of V. Kolenic, S. Pelle, M. Grozay and J. Mikeš are sensational elements of various dance parties in Bratislava’s Central College Club (in the V-Club) until their emigration to the USA (1979). These above mentioned young bands replaced the previous first generation of “beat musicians” and had sufficient background at the renowned lyricists, editors and media script editors. The bandleader of Modus J. Lehotsky, since the foundation of the band, has cooperated with leading musicians. This group has won a number of awards at festivals and they have given many concerts at home and abroad (Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, West Germany, Vietnam and the USSR), have released studio recordings and LPs. The greatest success especially among the younger generation, however, won the band Elán. This band of four band members who stood at the birth of this band and throughout its development: V. Patejdl, J. Raz, Z. Balaz and J. Farkas. Their activities didn’t not stopped even after some personnel changes (especially with the arrival of J. Balaz), on the contrary, their activities intensified. In the 1990s V. Patejdl finally returned to the band and the band cooperated with elite musicians such as guitarists J. Burian, H. Toth and the drummer M. Buntaj. Although the band currently performs and records rather sporadically (e.g. in 1978 the group performed in the famous Carnegie Hall in NY.C.), its megahits are included in the “golden fund” of the broadcast by all radio stations in the former Czechoslovakia and video clips often appear on TV channels and on the Internet as gems of a music legend. Another successful band of the late 1970s was the “harder” band YPS from Martin.
In the first half of the 1980s young bands came which compensatde for the lack of rock music and mainstream music in a different way. They are Tublatanka, with M. Durinda and Demikát with M. Greksa and A. Seban, Team with P. Habera and Indigo with P. Nagy, RG Ventil and Midi with R. Grigorov. It should be mentioned that except for Demikát, the above mentioned bands did not perform hard rock in the 1980s, but rather pop-mainstream. The hegemony of the singing star cult or the frontman’s cult becam more obvious at the expense of the democratic principle, which was felt in the bands of the 1960s and 1970s. Bands fall apart more often and singing leaders are increasingly voicing their irreplaceability. They are supported by their fans who are fixated on their idols. The importance of the band sticking together is replaced by voice colour, image and the temperament of one musician. The individuality of style and the originality of composition fades away. You can only notice the text and solo vocal performance. Nevertheless, singers of high quality rarely appear: M. Gombitova and M. Zbirka left Modus, V. Patejdl left Elán and R. Grigorov and J. Kuric left RG Ventil, P. Habera left the Team. The popularity from new faces was won mostly by “teenage idols” P. Nagy, “chanson singer” R. Muller, M. Durinda with Tublatanka, Demikát with M. Greksa, Metalinda with P. Grapák, B. Dubasova, P. and J. Hecko, K. Kadlubiak with Tonic and Gravis. In the 1980s young singers D. Rolincova and J. Danova begin their careers. City folk was played by Bukasový masív and Lojzo bands. A separate category included bands and singers who did not have such majority status on the popular music scene, but in quality they were no worse than any of their more popular counterparts. The country style was played by Belasí a Mloci, folk by Z. Homolova and S. Hornakova, blues by E. Prochadza, J. Litecky-Sveda, cabaret satire by J. Filip, M. Lasica, M. Noga, J. Satinsky, S. Skrucany, rockn’roll by V. Velčický, pop jazz by A. Bartosova, B. Balogh, fusion and jazz funk by Tamis, Tagore, Esprit, A-conto and Tonic. Typical characteristics of the popular music bands of the 1970s and 1980s was the collective work of the band, hit production, poly-style creation, inclination to rock, trying to score in prestigious competitions on television, radio and festivals, recording of at least one LP a year, cooperation with renowned lyricists and searching for funds to buy overcharged and inaccessible apparatus and instruments.